WILL THIS YEAR'S General Assembly session end harmoniously or in bitter division, with key legislation in danger of expiring a week from today? Much depends on Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who holds a critical card in this high-stakes poker game: His supplemental budget.
Mr. Glendening seeks maximum leverage by withholding submission of this key document. He wants his major remaining pieces of legislation to be enacted before he releases this money. But General Assembly leaders aren't falling for that threat and are instead delaying approval of many of the governor's bills until the budget add-ons are unveiled.
The longer Mr. Glendening waits, the greater the danger that chaos, anger and parochial paybacks could reign in the final days of the General Assembly session. That could lead to a tit-for-tat retribution on bills, including the governor's remaining initiatives.
It's a scene from the Old West: Two gunfighters face off. One holds a gun on his hostage -- a sizable aid package for the counties. The other has hostages, too -- the "Smart Growth" bill, the "Thriving by Three" bill, an income-tax cut and a major Baltimore City reform bill. Neither side seems willing to end this confrontation.
That's why it is important for Mr. Glendening to display executive leadership. Two of his bills -- on growth control and aid to middle-income pregnant women -- are finally moving. Both should be in a conference committee soon, with sufficient time to iron out differences. Thus, the showdown revolves around budget and tax issues, which are tightly bound.
House leaders are unwilling to pass the city school aid package because of intense bitterness from Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The last thing House Speaker Casper R. Taylor wants is a grudge war breaking out on the House floor. That could be avoided if the governor puts money in his supplemental budget to boost school aid in the counties.
Then the Baltimore school reforms would breeze to enactment without a bloody floor fight. And most county legislators would go home with enough new aid to claim victory.
But nothing happens until the governor makes his move. Mr. Glendening should submit his supplemental spending plan quickly, while there is still time to work out inevitable hang-ups on issues. Otherwise, he puts his own pet proposals at risk, especially from life-threatening Senate filibusters as the 1997 General Assembly draws to a close.
Pub Date: 4/01/97